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O Brother, Where Art Thou?

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Starring: George Clooney, John Turturro
Director: Joel Coen
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 106 Minutes
Release Date: December 2000
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: John Goodman, Holly Hunter, Tim Blake Nelson, Michael Badalucco, Wayne Duvall, Charles Durning, Stephen Root, Chris Thomas King

Review by Dan Brown
4 stars out of 4

Joel Cohen's film "O Brother Where Art Thou" is is one of the funniest and uniquely insightful looks at Southern culture that has been produced in years. Just as we critics decry the death of moviemaking and real acting, this film rescues these arts with Hitchcockian levels of detail and character complexity. Besides my critical skills I have a graduate level education in Preservation Architecture and Vernacular Decorative Arts and this film is so lovingly faithful to its physical depiction of the Rural Deep South during the Depression era and the "feel" of its physical environment. I kept thinking of the detail reminescient in Hitchcock's "North by Northwest", where the scenes unfold in this exquisite physical environment and I rewatched "O Brother" to intelluctally drink in the detail and flavor of each scene. Joel Cohen's attention to costuming and decorative detail evoked Stanley Kubrick's efforts with his masterpiece "Barry Lyndon". As you watch pay attention to Pappy O'Daniel and his entourage's outfits and the detail in the three main character's coveralls. In one scene they pan down the main street of a small town during a political rally and then carry the scene to a "Five and Dime". Ravish them with you eyes, they honestly depict the place and time and are a rare treat.

Having been raised in small rural towns in the South, I rarely find Southern characters played with any depth or balance especially in Comedy films. My wife and I howled throughout the film as the characters developed.

What's it all about? Well, these three good natured boys get stuck together on a chain gang and the self asumed "smart" one, played by George Clooney, convinces his "slower" cohorts to assist in a group escape and share in the 1.2 Million he has hidden in his cabin, located in a swamp, which is about to be flooded by the regional TVA-like electrical authority as part of a dam project to bring, not just electricty, but modernity to the South. It becomes a journey of epic porportions both thematically and comedically. It's about the humor of a complex culture evolved from the primative isolation that resulted from the aftermath of the Civil War and the juxtapositions and irony that result as it confronts 20th century modernity. Yet as it skillfully mocks it respectively displays the "Tout Ensemble" that was last vestiges of the "Old South" and what was good, and really funny about it, both black and white. The KKK scene is a remake of the "death of the witch" scene in the "Wizard of Oz", just set in the Old South, if you can imagine that. And, it has all the quirkiness you would hope to find in a typical Joel Coen film.

You might be able to tell, I loved it. I find it hard to believe you wouldn't too. Get your money's worth though, watch it twice.

Copyright 2001 Dan Brown

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